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It’s Time to Bring Mobile Moments to the Enterprise

Bask Iyer Headshot-cropIt’s Time to Bring Mobile Moments to the Enterprise
By Bask Iyer, CIO, VMware

According to a report published by Gartner, Inc, last month, by the end of 2017 the market demand for enterprise mobile app development services will outstrip internal IT departments’ ability to deliver them at least five times over.

Well, I suppose that means the prospects for enterprise mobile developers are certainly bright, but stats like this one always leave me scratching my head.

I mean, where are these extremely in-demand enterprise mobile apps?

If you’re anything like me, your experience to date with enterprise-specific mobile apps has been lackluster at best.  I think there’s hope, however, beginning with more businesses recognizing the tremendous benefits of making enterprise mobility a priority—benefits that range from transforming customer engagement to business-process innovations that empower employees in new ways, as my colleague Sanjay Poonen has detailed in depth here.

But when it comes to the apps themselves, I think the history of consumer mobile apps may offer a solid clue regarding where enterprise mobility needs to go next…

The Three Phases of Mobility
In the consumer world we’ve seen mobility progress in three general phases, which we could call Initiation, Evolution, and Maturity.

initiate

Initiation was the initial influx of mobile devices, seven or eight years ago, when smartphones and tablets finally caught on.

icon_evolve
In the Evolution stage, websites were made more mobile-friendly and the development of mobile-specific applications steadily became a multibillion-dollar industry.

mature
In the third phase, Maturity, mobile-first and even mobile-only apps—like WhatsApp and Snapchat—were introduced to deliver maximum value for mobile users by making the most of smartphone and tablet hardware (including GPS, camera, wireless connectivity, a streamlined user experience, and so on).

 

While the consumer marketplace is now reaping the benefits of the Maturity stage, the enterprise world is still stuck somewhere between Initiation and Evolution.  And it’s time for businesses to catch up.

Defining the Mobile Moment
There’s a lot of talk these days about BYOD (bring your own device).  Many businesses encourage or at least allow their employees to bring their own devices to work.  And it makes sense, considering that, according to Forrester, Americans already use an average of three connected devices, which will no doubt increase if smart watches eventually catch on

Most enterprises are optimizing their sites and apps for mobile, making sure their SAP system, PeopleSoft application, or other corporate services are accessible through a tablet or phone.  According to a Forrester Business Technographics Global Mobility Data Report (July 2015), 48% of BDMs (business decision makers) are already implementing productivity mobile apps, 42% are implementing web/video conferencing apps, and 42% are implementing data collaboration apps. Usual suspects include expense reporting services—enabling employees to use their phones to file their expenses online—and as well as SaaS (software-as-a-service) providers for HR systems, which let employees check their digital paystubs, their health insurance coverage, and so on.  For the most part, these business apps aren’t offering users anything more than what a mobile-optimized web site might (and sometimes they offer even less).

Yet when I think of my own ordinary, consumer-level mobile habits, I really wonder how I’d live without Waze, WhatsApp, Google Maps, Yelp, MobileDay, or Evernote—apps that are more than merely optimized for mobile. They define mobile, creating positive experiences, or “mobile moments,” for millions of users every day.

Real-World Mobile Moments vs. Enterprise Mobile Moments
Whenever you get stuck in a traffic jam, you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get home or if there are any shortcuts…unless you’ve got an app like Waze, the incredible social-networking-for-traffic app.  It uses GPS and the warnings and advice of other drivers on the road to create a unique value proposition for at that point in time, at that location—at that mobile moment.

If you needed to fire up your laptop, log on, find a Wi-Fi connection, and then search for alternate routes, the app would be relatively useless.  You need a smartphone, not a laptop, to benefit from an app such as Waze.

The same is true of WhatsApp.  You want to be able to use your smartphone (no taking photos with tablets, please) to quickly snap a photo of an interesting thing you saw and share it with a friend halfway around the world, rather than having to take that photo back to your office, transferring it to your PC, and then emailing it.  Until recently, WhatsApp didn’t even have a client for desktop.  The app is truly mobile-first and, for most of its history, mobile-only.

That’s another mobile moment from the real world.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any corporate apps that are purely mobile-only.  It’s because we have very few mobile moments in the enterprise world right now.

But investing in mobile does pay off, judging by a recent survey  – Forrester Business Technographics Global Mobility Data Report – (July 2015), we conducted at VMware of 1,200 BDMs and ITDMs (IT decision makers) worldwide.  Among other things, our research found that 73% of customers who have executed a business mobility plan have achieved an average of 29% reduction in IT operational staff time, and 34% have seen an average of 20% reduction in IT costs.  What’s more, those who have already fully implemented a business mobility strategy are seeing at least a two times greater ROI (return on investment) than those not executing a business mobility plan.  The ROI from business mobility investments averages 150%.  Imagine how those numbers might increase if enterprise business mobility apps were actually compelling—and perhaps even genuinely fun—to use?

Glimpses of What’s to Come
I mentioned Evernote, and Evernote Business is a good example of an enterprise app that’s genuinely useful. In fact, it represents one of the only categories where I think the possibility of true mobile moments may soon begin to arise in the enterprise.  Slack and Redbooth are two other extremely popular desktop collaboration apps that also offer a pretty good mobile experience, and the innovation that’s happening in that social-networking-for-business space looks extremely promising.

But generally speaking, those apps are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible for enterprise mobility. We need to find new resources of innovative thinking to create those mobile moments, and I think it starts with businesses beginning to realize that this space needs organic innovation. Your employees are getting used to having amazing mobile software experiences outside of their daily workflow, and smart companies that want to keep them happy—and productive—should pay attention to what this means.

What are key mobile moments inside an enterprise?  What would they look like in your company, for your specific field or area of expertise?  And how can we challenge ourselves as IT leaders to deliver true mobile apps for the businesses we serve?

We are on the cusp of the next mobile revolution that will enable us to delight and inspire the employees of an enterprise near you.

Bask

On Twitter: @baskiyer

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